Today’s instalment of the Elsie Dress sewalong is all about big skirts! We’re going to be stitching skirt seams, constructing the inverted box pleats and then attaching the skirt to the bodice – to create something that looks like a dress. By the end of this post you’ll have something you can try on – and if you’re anything like us, maybe do a little bit of twirling in!
First off, checklist. At this point you should have all your pieces cut out and the bodice sewn up. (If not, head back a few posts to catch up). Ready? Let’s dive straight in!
1. Start by finishing the vertical seams on all your skirt pieces – so the centre fronts, centre backs and side seams. We have used an overlocker but if you don’t have one you can use the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. Stitch right over the raw edge of the fabric to enclose it and help prevent it from fraying.
2. The Elsie Dress skirt has a centre front seam which is eventually disguised by the pleats in the skirt. To stitch that seam, place the skirt front pieces right sides together, and match the notches down the centre front edge. (It’s always worth double checking you’ve got the right edge here, and that you’re not stitching the side seams instead of the centre front.) Pin at the notches, then fill in the whole distance from the waist to hem, before stitching the seam.
3. Press the seam allowances open, firstly from the wrong side and then from the right side, to ensure you’ve got a lovely flat, crisp seam.
4. With right sides together, align the front skirt and a back skirt piece together at the side seams. Match the notches and pin, before stitching in place. Then do the same for the second back skirt piece, until you have the most huge skirt that you’ve ever seen! (At this stage it’ll probably wrap around you twice!)
5. Press all the seam allowances open.
6. Using the notches to help you, start to form the pleats on the skirt. The Elsie skirt is made up of five sets of inverted box pleats: three on the front skirt and one on each side of the back skirt. To construct an inverted box pleat, fold both sides of the pleat inwards to the centre point, with the pleats visible on the top of the skirt, as shown below.
Use the notches to help you line up the pleats correctly.
For the prettiest effect when the skirt is finished, you want the pleats to meet on the waist seam line. When pinning the pleats, make sure both sides of the pleat meet 1.5cm from the waist edge (ie on the seam allowance line). Secure this join in place here with a horizontal pin. This may mean that the top of the pleats overlap slightly at the waist edge, but this is okay!
7. Once pinned, tack all five pleats in place with a longer stitch length, making sure to keep your stitches within the seam allowance. It’s a good idea at this point to check that the pleats are laying correctly at the front and back sides of the skirt, and that nothing has shifted and been stitched down wrongly. If it has simply pin the area again, unpick the stitches and tack it again.
8. Now it’s time to join the skirt to the bodice. With right sides together, line them up at the waist. The side seams should meet, and the pleats on either side of the front and back skirts should meet the princess seams on the bodice. Pin these areas first, before pinning the rest of the waist.
To help everything match up perfectly, it helps again to place horizontal pins 1.5cm from the waist edge. This ensures that the pleats and seams won’t shift when you’re sewing.
9. When the whole seam is pinned, stitch the seam in place. Make sure your machine is switched back onto a standard 2.5mm stitch length before you start.
10. Press the seam allowance upwards towards the bodice. If you’re using an extra bulky fabric it might help to grade down the waist seam allowance a little here.
And that’s it for today! You now have the beginnings of an Elsie Dress! If you carefully pin the shoulders you’ll be able to try it on – always an exciting stage! If you get stuck on anything we’ve covered today don’t suffer in silence. Drop us an email or leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Otherwise we’ll see you in a couple of days with a new zip insertion technique to try!